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Red Rocks and Yellow Water

In retrospect, maybe it would have been better to spend two or three days in the Kakadu National Park that to just take a day trip, for it’s a long coach ride from Darwin. But, the driver/guide was fairly talkative, and we gleaned some useful facts on the journey. We would be able to tell a wallaby from a kangaroo, because, he said, there are no kangaroos hereabouts.

Therefore, when we stopped for a coffee and a ‘pit-stop’ at the remote Bark Hut Inn, we knew that the creatures grazing unconcernedly in the paddock on the far side of the road were

When we called at Nourlangie Rock, I had a strong feeling of déja vu. It looked extremely familiar, and I’m sure I’d seen it before somewhere. Then, it dawned. I believe it featured in the film ‘Crocodile Dundee II’; indeed, much of the Crocodile Dundee series was filmed in the Park.

Although Kakadu is famous for its wetlands (and crocodiles!), Nourlangie is high and dry, far above the water, and is home to a gallery of Aboriginal paintings beneath a cave-like overhang on the cliff face; some ancient; some done fairly recently … certainly, within the lifetime of us older folks.

I’m not going to even start to explain Aboriginal art. It would take much serious study, and even then, you wouldn’t learn all about it, for some of it, and some of the stories behind it, may not be divulged to anyone outside the tribe. Also, there’s a certain amount of stuff that isn’t really the real deal; it’s received knowledge, gleaned from European anthropologists’ ideas about the paintings and the tales.

‘How do you tell the difference?’ I asked an elderly Aboriginal gentleman in Queensland a couple of years ago. ‘You can’t!’ he said … then added ‘I can, though!’

Because of the planning alterations, we’d had to alter the dates of our visit slightly, and were delighted to learn that we’d finished up with the very best time of the year to visit. This part of the season was known as the ‘run off’, that is, the period after the ‘Wet’, or rainy season.

After lunch, we took the Yellow Water Cruise … which has nothing to do with what you get if you melt yellow snow. To get to the boats, we transferred to smaller minibuses, because the road to the landing stage was still flooded. However, the sturdy little minibuses had no difficulty fording it.

Fortunately, the boats were moored to a pontoon, so we were able to transfer from the buses to the boats dryshod. What a cruise! Among the lilies and the mangroves, we saw egrets, darters (a water bird, similar to the cormorant) and … crocodiles!

However, they weren’t the dreaded saltwater crocodile, star of many a movie and TV documentary, although these can still be encountered, especially just after the Wet, when they can get up the rivers and creeks much more easily. Despite its name, it’s quite happy in fresh water, too. These were freshwater crocodiles, which, they say, aren’t harmful to humans. Nevertheless, nobody was game to dip a hand in the water!

We cruised down Yellow Water, and into JimJim Creek. Everywhere, there were floating pads of water lilies and trees, most of which carried a distinct ‘tide mark’ to show where the waters came in the wet season.

And, every time I saw a floating log, I thought it was a crocodile. The ranger said it was better than seeing a crocodile and thinking it was a log, as so many animals … and people … have done, usually with fatal results, in the past.

The Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, with which we rounded off the visit, was a bit of a disappointment. There were plenty of artefacts and pictures, with comprehensive explanations about what was on show. But, something was missing; the Aborigines are great story-tellers. A lot of what they tell about must not be discussed outside the tribe, but surely there’s something they’re allowed to share with us?

There’s certainly a lot to see at Kakadu; even a week doesn’t seem long enough to devote to it. But, sadly, we could only spend a day there. But, what a day! That’s one place we’re just putting a tick beside, rather than crossing it off the ‘bucket list’ altogether.


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Keith Kellett spends his ‘retirement’ travelling, writing, photographing, videoing and blogging about food and drink, beer, old cars, railways, beer, steam engines, history and historical re-enactments, bygones, beer, gardens, travel, beer and brewing, nature and the outdoors and beer. Sometimes, he gets published; sometimes, he even gets paid! He operates a blog ( and has written two books ‘One Thing Leads to Another’ and 'When the Boat Comes In'He’s originally from Cumbria, but now lives in Southern England, near Salisbury, just (I was going to say, a stone’s throw) a short distance from the ancient stones of Stonehenge, where he’s a volunteer at the Visitor Centre when time permits..

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